Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas

Dear neighbor, Here is the 509thinstallment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings.  I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you.  If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.

Ann Gallelli

Decoding Village Agendas – October 5, 2020

Regular Meeting of the Village Board

6:00 pm

(Zoom )

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PRESENTATION:

  1. Proclamation for Fire Prevention Week 2020.   The proclamation declares October 4 – 10 as Fire Prevention Week.  The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention week is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen”.
  2. Presentation by Jasmine Graham of Westchester Power on the upcoming Community Choice Aggregation program renewal.  The presentation will show the results of the bid process for energy resulting from Westchester Power’s recent bid process.  Constellation Energy won the bid with an 18 month rate of 7.405 cents for green supply(residential).  Notification letters will be sent out to Croton residents on November 4 and the Opt-out period will extend from November 9 to December 9.

CORRESPONDENCE:

  1. Email from Toni Senecal Shea requesting a time extension for the outdoor sidewalk seating program and to place the pizza oven on the street on October 31.  Ms. Shea, owner of Tapsmith, asks that outdoor sidewalk seating be extended to the end of the year. Additionally, as Tapsmith is teaming with the Croton Caring Committee to be a drop off site through October and a collection site on October 31, she requests permission to have a pizza oven on the sidewalk on October 31.
  2. Email from Stephen Campbell of New York Power Authority regarding a Notice of Proposed Rule Making – Increase Production Rates.   The Village is being notified of increased production rates of 7.49% over 2020 rates.  The letter attributes this to the closing of Indian Point #3.  There will be a comment period from October 14 to December 14 prior to a final determination.
  3. Bid Summary Sheet from Village Bond Sale on September 30, 2020.   The Village issued $2,609,990 of bonds for various capital projects.  The bid summary sheet shows effective rates between 1.56655% and 1.79000%.

PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS:

a.      Consider determining that the Proposed Action (Hudson National Golf Club application for a subdivision of its property to create a separate 15-acre lot to be leased for a solar array, an application for an amended special permit for the Club use on the reduced property, and site plan and special permit for the proposed tier 3 solar energy) is an Unlisted Action under SEQRA, declaring the Village Board’s intent to be Lead Agency under SEQRA, and referring the necessary documents to the Village Planning Board as required by law, and the Westchester County Planning Board.   Hudson National Golf Course has submitted an application for a subdivision of its property to create a 15-acre sot to be leased for a solar array.  The golf course received its initial special permit in 1994.  It was later amended in 199.  The resolution calls for the Board of Trustees  to declare itself Lead Agency for the purposes of the State Environmental Review process.

Ann Gallelli: Thank you to Laurie Dean & the Croton Community Coalition

To the editor, 

 Congratulations to the Croton Coalition Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse on a job well done.  Of course, this job is never really done, but the Coalition has reached the end of its two 5-year federal grants to increase awareness of alcohol and drug abuse and take steps to address it.

During these past 10+ years, the Coalition brought together 12 sectors of residents including businesses, medical professionals, educators, students, fraternal groups, religious affiliations, local government, and police. The Village government acted as the Coalition’s fiscal agent with regarding to managing and reporting on the $125,000 yearly grant.

 Led in recent years by Coordinator, Laurie Dean, the Coalition can point to many accomplishments. Prior to Laurie, Ginny Loughlin served in that position.  Several of these accomplishments are well known such as the annual Vassallo Fest, five mandated surveys for 8th, 10th and12th graders in the schools, several Town Halls on vaping, addiction and alcohol, Drug Take Back Days at Croton Commons, among others.  The Coalition’s annual signature event, the Candlelight Vigil, organized by high school teens themselves, was a time for reflection and understanding.  Additionally, the Coalition sponsored training for responsible alcohol sales and serving, known as TIPS, for area stores and bars/restaurants. Croton Police are now certified to continue this training into the future.  A series of 6 postcards providing information on marijuana, was designed thru the Croton Coalition and won national recognition.  It is now used by other coalitions across the country.

While the grant has run out, the Coalition has left a positive record in Croton as much for bringing diverse groups together as for its specific mission of education about drug and alcohol abuse.  

Thank you to all who participated over the last 10 years.   

Ann Gallelli, Deputy Mayor

Brian Pugh: Croton-on-Hudson Keeps Strong Bond Rating Despite COVID-19

To The Editor:

I am happy to report that, despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson had its Aa2 bond rating affirmed by Moody’s investor services.  The Village has maintained an Aa2 rating since 2011 when it increased from A1.

Bond ratings are independent opinions on the creditworthiness of a bond issuer. They are for bond issuers, like local governments, what credit scores are for individuals. Just as credit bureaus evaluate a person’s income and debt, bond rating agencies will look at an issuer’s finances to determine its ability to repay its obligations. A stronger rating, indicating lower risk, is associated with a lower interest rate.

Bonds rated A or higher by Moody’s, as Croton’s are, are judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk. Croton-on-Hudson shared this strong Aa2 rating with other villages in the region, including Ardsley, Briarcliff Manor, Dobbs Ferry, Ossining and Pleasantville.

The Village’s unchanged rating, in the face of the challenges of the pandemic, is a testament to the fiscal management of the Village’s staff and the Board of Trustees.  

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, the Board worked with the staff to reduce the operating expense budget by $415,388, cutting 40+ line items, and the capital budget by $4,701,675 from the tentative budget.  At the most recent meeting of the Board, we authorized the Village Treasurer to amend the 2020-2021 General Fund Budget in the amount of $329,298.75 to account for reduced revenues and expenditures due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Board of Trustees is committed to protecting taxpayers and preserving the fiscal strength of our Village, so that the village government continues to have the resources necessary to serve the public.  We are prepared to make additional adjustments as necessary to accommodate changing economic circumstances.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh, Mayor

Andy Simmons: Vote for Len Simon for Village Trustee

To the Editor

The hallmark of a good public servant is the ability to listen, to communicate, to understand both sides of an argument. Not everyone is blessed with such qualities. Len Simon is. That’s why I’m so happy he’s running for Croton Village Trustee.

I’ve known Len now for a few years, and he will gladly sit down with anyone to discuss the issues that are important to Croton. Better yet, he actually knows what he’s talking about. As an adviser to local governments, he’s spent decades helping small villages and towns negotiate through both boom times and busts—both of which bring their own set of unique problems. That means Len would begin his tenure with more knowledge about what works and what doesn’t than most government officials.

Len is also a devoted Crotonite, having joined the fire department and the zoning board. Adding an interesting wrinkle to his resume, Len, a presidential history buff, volunteers as a docent at FDR’s Hyde Park. He’s a man of intellect, kindness, and decency.

But again, what I like most about Len is his ability to listen. He will hear you out. He will craft compromises. He will always do what he feels best for Croton and his neighbors.

Andy Simmons

Village of Croton Trustee

Len Simon: Happy Electric Vehicle Week!

To the Editor:

A great football coach used to say “The Future Is Now”! That’s good advice for Croton as we all take a close look at electric vehicles.

Our own Croton 100 is helping to lead the way. They sponsored Celebrate National Drive Electric Week last weekend at Vassallo Park on Saturday and Senasqua Park on Sunday where Croton could meet the owners of electric vehicles (EV) and see several models on display.

EVs will be important as we head towards a zero-emissions vehicle standard.

Fourteen states have already adopted zero-emission vehicles laws. Last week Governor Gavin Newsom of California required by Executive Order that all new cars and passenger trucks sales be zero-emission by 2035.

And last Friday our Senator Pete Harckham introduced legislation, requiring all in-state sales of new cars and trucks to be zero emissions by 2035 and medium and heavy-duty trucks by 2045. So when it comes to zero-emissions vehicles, the future will be here before we know it!

Fortunately here at home, there are dedicated folks working hard to get us to that goal, including Croton 100. Trustee Andy Simmon’s recent excellent letter in the Gazette outlined the cash rebates and incentives available for purchase of an EV, which added up to a potential of $12,000 total savings off MSRP for the local purchase of a Nissan Leaf.

Trustee Simmons also summarized all the operational savings resulting from EV ownership.

Mayor Brian Pugh also reported in last week’s Gazette that our Village has achieved a Silver Climate Smart rating from the Department of Environmental
Conservation thanks to our Sustainability Committee, led by Lindsay Audin. The Village has also been replacing older fleet vehicles with electric ones through attrition. That transition to EVs will continue over time, and eventually include trucks, once manufacturers start producing EVs matching the Village’s needs.

Future Croton will be filled with EVs of all kinds. Croton 100, the Sustainability Committee, our Village government and our whole community working towards that common purpose will get us there. It’s going to be a great trip – I’m glad to be along for the ride!

Len Simon
Democratic Candidate
Croton Board of Trustees

Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas No. 508

Deputy Mayor Ann Gallelli

Dear neighbor, Here is the 508thinstallment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings.  I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you.  If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.

Ann Gallelli

Decoding Village Agendas – September 21, 2020

Regular Meeting of the Village Board

5:30 pm

(Zoom )

Join Zoom Meeting via Computer or Tablet – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81254309237?pwd=OVJOWjdLRjJaYlpocnBTY2pmT0pqdz09

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EXECUTIVE SESSION: (5:30)  Consider a request from the Mayor to enter into Executive Session for discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation.

PRESENTATION: (6:00)  Presentation from Laurie Dean, Chair of the Croton Community Coalition, on the organization’s accomplishments.

CORRESPONDENCE:

  1. Draft of Complete Streets Policy as recommended by the Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee.   The Committee has developed a proposed policy that would apply to Village streets  with regard to requiring certain steps be taken when street work is done to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
  2. Press release from Moody’s Investors Service affirming the Village’s Aa2 credit rating.   The Aa2 credit rating for the Village has remained the same.  Aa2 equates to “high quality with very little credit risk” under Moody’s ratings definitions.
  3. Letter from Patricia Buchanan of Croton100 requesting use of two Village parking areas for EV car shows during National Drive Electric Week.    Several EV’s and their owners will be parked at Vassallo Park on Saturday, September 24 from 4-6 and Sunday, from 11 – 1 at Senasqua.  People are encouraged to view them and ask questions.

PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS:

  1. Consider authorizing the Village Treasurer to amend the 2020-2021 General Fund Budget in    the amount of $329,298.75 to account for reduced revenues and expenditures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Revenue projections for daily parking at the station, recreation fees, beach and pool charges and fines and forfeited bail have been reduced by $329,298.75.  To offset this 1st quarter decline in revenue, 27 expense accounts would be reduced by the same amount.  These include part-time and over-time expenses in many departments such as administration, court, police, and recreation.
  1. Consider authorizing the Village Manager to execute an agreement with La Teja Contractors & Landscaping Inc. to provide snow removal services for the 2020-2021 winter season.  This contract is for snow removal when homeowners fail to clear their sidewalks within the prescribed 18 hours after the storm ends.  The rates remain the same as last year.
  1. Consider authorizing the Village Treasurer to amend the 2020-2021 General Fund Budget in the amount of $1,708.95 for expenses related to the replacement of a street light.  The Village received reimbursement and this reflects the accounting.
  1. Consider authorizing the Village Manager to execute an extension agreement with FM Generator of Canton, Massachusetts, in the amount of $6,550 for generator maintenance services.  The Village has generators at multiple locations including the Municipal Building, DPW, fire houses, and wells.

Brian Pugh: Charting A Path Forward on Police Reform

Dear Neighbors:

In June, our governor issued Executive Order 203, requiring local police agencies to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force. Such a reform plan must be approved by the Board of Trustees by April 1, 2021.

Our new police chief, John Nikitopoulos, laid out his vision of the path forward for the Village at Monday’s Board of Trustees work session. Through the remainder of 2020, the chief will meet with community groups and conduct a survey of Village residents.  This will help the chief to identify issues and assess needs in the community.

In early 2021, the chief will present a draft plan informed by the earlier community outreach discussed above.  The draft plan will be subject to public comment.  I plan to appoint a task force, composed of citizens and officials, that will assist in reviewing these comments and make recommendations about revisions to the draft plan.  

After the draft plan is thoroughly ventilated, the Board of Trustees will review the plan, the public’s comments and the task force’s recommendations. Ultimately, the Board will be responsible for approving a final plan and ensuring its full implementation.

Our Croton Police Department has much to be proud of, including a long record of successfully de-escalating potentially violent situations. As reported by the chief in his memo to the Board, in the past 34 years, no Croton police officer has discharged their firearm in the course of duty, even when dealing with armed individuals.  

Even prior to Executive Order 203, Chief Nikitopoulos’s predecessor, Russel Harper, took the lead on modernizing our force. In just two years, the Police Department added its first bilingual officers and park rangers and the first woman police officer in nearly a decade and implemented additional anti-bias training.

I believe that Executive Order 203 is an invitation to make our community’s police better than ever. I look forward to working with the Board, the Police Department and residents to help make our community as safe as possible for everyone.

Brian Pugh

Len Simon: Diversity & Inclusion

Len Simon, Democratic Candidate for Village Trustee

Dear Neighbors:

A characteristic I admire very much among my Croton friends and neighbors is their willingness to take up significant challenges and work collaboratively towards meaningful solutions.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, headed by Andy Finkelstein,  is a good example of that process at work.

The  Committee itself is best qualified to discuss with Croton its goals and objectives and plans for achieving them. But I’d like to say just a few words of thanks to the Committee

for hosting a discussion group earlier this week where participants had the opportunity to engage in conversation on issues which are important to address not only here in Croton, but in every community across the country. I was very grateful to be invited to be part of that discussion.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we know we can do more and better here at home. But from observing similar efforts undertaken in communities I’ve worked with professionally across the country, it seems to me that Croton is not only headed in the right direction, but is also off to a very good start.  And while these issues may have the potential to divide people in some places, I predict that here in Croton, by addressing them
and seeking common ground and understanding, we can actually be brought closer together.

As just one voice among many,  I look forward to these efforts continuing and welcome the good ideas and results which will make us a stronger and better Croton.

Len Simon

Democratic Candidate

Croton Board of Trustees

Andy Simmons: Driving Into Electric Vehicle Week

Trustee Andy Simmons

Dear Neighbors,

September 26-October 4th is National Drive Electric Week. For those Crotonites considering buying an Electric Vehicle, now’s the time. Nissan of New Rochelle, along with Sustainable Westchester, is offering $5500 cash back on a 2019 Nissan Leaf. Combined with the $2,000 New York State Drive Clean Rebate, and other discounts, there is the potential for up to $12,000 total savings off MSRP. The savings, of course, don’t stop there. There’s no need for an oil change with an EV car because there’s no oil. EVs have lower maintenance costs—a gas engine has around 2,000 moving parts, an EV’s engine around 20! And, of course, no need for the weekly pitstop at the gas pump. Since most road trips are less than 30 miles, the Nissan Leaf’s 150 to 226 miles per charge should be plenty of charge time for the average journey.  

Croton is in the vanguard of clean transportation, with charging stations at the municipal building and train station, not to mention our new electric and hybrid police cars replacing older gas-sucking cruisers. If you want to keep Croton green, consider this deal brought to you by Sustainable Westchester and Nissan of New Rochelle.  

Andy Simmons, Trustee

John Habib: What you should know about rezoning

To The Editor:

I am writing again about the proposed construction of a 3-story apartment building on the old Croton Hardware store site and adjacent parcels. I will not address the application’s pros and cons. Instead, this is a reminder of how a project proposal like this one came to be received, and how a rigorous examination process will move forward while taking into account key data points. Of course, this application never would have been submitted absent the recent approval of zoning law amendments applicable to North Riverside Avenue & Municipal Place. These amendments were derived from clear recommendations in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan. That Plan – approved on a bipartisan basis by unanimous vote of the Village Board – states: “Adapting housing [stock]…will help a vibrant and engaged senior population to securely age in place and contribute to a vibrant community. At the same time, the Village must…attract and retain the new Village immigrants and younger workforce needed to replace a labor force that is shrinking as the population ages.” This new construction application reflects the past cross-party vote of Croton’s local government to attract new housing options to the Village.

Let’s also remember the core aspects of the rather conservative changes made to the zoning code: 1) substantially reducing the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the land upon which it is built (the “FAR”) – which now matches the FAR of the Harmon overlay district, where a new mixed-use project has emerged at 375 S. Riverside Avenue housing Baked By Susan, M Salon and several apartments; 2) permitting multi-unit, all-residential construction because the previous zoning required residential uses to be paired with commercial space, effectively forcing much higher traffic-generating projects into the areas; and 3) approving 3-story buildings instead of only 2.5 stories, while maintaining the exact same 35 foot height restriction.

When the new zoning was adopted, the Mayor, Trustees and Village administration members emphasized that new building applications undergo many months of vigorous scrutiny focused on numerous topics, including quality-of-life issues such as traffic and school capacity. It is important to point out that a low-rise residential structure of 10,000 sq. ft. generates approximately less than ⅓ of the amount of traffic created by a similarly sized shopping center. As for student enrollment, our school district’s population peaked in 2009 (1,760), and declined substantially by 2018 (1,608). Westchester County birth rates have been dropping since 2000, which has reduced enrollment for many districts. These statistics, while not dispositive, are directly relevant to expert evaluations of whether any new project could somehow overwhelm our district.

I have spent just about my entire life tightly connected to this Village. My family arrived here in 1967, when I was 4 years old. I am a 1981 CHHS graduate, and the Village was my home base throughout college and law school days. My career caused me to relocate around the US and overseas. But Croton has always been my “True North”, particularly because many of my immediate family members never left here. As a Board member now, I can assure all residents that the Mayor and my fellow Trustees will only support new development projects they honestly believe are in the best long-term interests of our Paradise-on-Hudson. 

John Habib, Trustee